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Help on entertaining a difficult Boss to please in San Francisco

The owner of my company is coming out to visit me in a few weeks and I need some ideas on where to take him to dinner in San Francisco. The situation is he lives on the East Coast and has the idea in his head that he doesn't like any restaurants on the West Coast.

When I've been out there we typically eat at restaurants that are unpretentious and reasonably priced with generous portions (and really good food). He seems to have a penchant for the tried and true and an aversion to the up and coming "hot spots". As an example we ate at one of the oldest Italian restaurants in the United States for dinner (Ralph's in South Philly).

I'm not looking for any Gary Danko, Aqua, French Laundry type recommendations... just some great food thats not too pricy and not too fancy while being memorable. Any Ideas?

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  1. How is the new/removed Fior d'Italia (now in the San Remo Hotel at 2237 Mason Street)? Used to be very reliable, even quite good, but I haven't been there since the fire and move.

    Otherwise such a person MIGHT find a place like Suppenkuche (Octavia and Laguna) just to his taste, especially if he eats early. Generous portions and reliable, substantial meat-based entrees. The potato-pancake/apple sauce appetizer is a must. The jaegerschnitzle is good (though I often ask for the bratkartoffeln (fried/roast potatoes) rather than the spƤtzle (hand made "noodles"), as is the kassler (smoked pork chop). Depending on the night it can be quite busy, and they use the German custom of the Stammtisch or common table shared by parties smaller than a table-full. Anyway, a good beer assortment and passable wine list...cheers!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Boythefoodtalksto

      Fio d'Italia is not good. Ate there a couple of months back. Wanted to like it since it was so close to our house. The food is so so. Have no idea why the restaurant is packed... For better Italian I'd go to Trattoria Contadina or Antica Trattoria.

      1. re: OnceUponABite

        Antica Trattoria might work. Feels like it's been there for a hundred years.


    2. Sounds like Tadich is called for...

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sarah

        I've been hearing a lot about Tadich, though have never tried it. I did go to Sam's Grill a few weeks ago on a scouting mission and thought that might be a place he would enjoy. How would you compare Tadich to Sam's?

        1. re: Al Fredo

          I typed an answer, but it's disappeared. The whirling logging icon came on and spun endlessly...
          Anyhow I picked Tadich for it's atmosphere and service -- the food is also better. I've only had one lunch at Sam's and many meals at Tadich.

      2. I took my boss & his wife to Aziza Sunday (last night) and they were really blown away.

        It's top quality food, not too pricy and not too fancy while the evening ended up being memorable and unique.

        At first they got the wrong idea when i said i was taking them to a Moroccan restaurant, but when we entered the restaurant and they looked over the cali - ingredient influenced menu, they got excited.

        They are from Boston, travel the world and eat well, so I was glad that I could impress them with Aziza. I usually take all my out of town guests there and everyone ends up loving it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: caramela

          Based on the original posters description, Aziza sounds like a sure fire way to early retirement.

        2. Washbag in North Beach

          1. What price is considered reasonable?

            He probably would like Washbag, Washington Square Bar & Grill.

            He might like Chapeau. The warm ambiance there with classic French food might be nice.

            Tadich is a good suggestion. I asked about prices because Scomas might be a place he likes, but the prices can be high. If nothing else was in consideration, I'd pick Tadich's over Scomas. However, Scoma's has stellar-fresh fish, HUGE portions, is right on Fisherman's Wharf with free at the door valet parking and an old-style ambiance. It reminds me of an East Coast restaurant. The sides are VERY average though.

            I haven't been there in a gazillion years, but Cafe Sport in North Beach recently got a positive mention. Huge portions served family-style, old North Beach atmosphere.

            Original Joe's in the Tenderloin might be an option too. Maybe he'd get a thrill out of the adventure of the neighborhood.

            I love Aziza, but there are California chowhounds that don't like the place and if I were you, I'd take if for a test run hand have dinner there to see what you think.

            3 Replies
            1. re: rworange

              Price really isn't that large of an issue.... if he feels like he is getting his money's worth. I appreciate the suggestions, my wife and I will have to try some of these restaurants out. Aziza sounds intriguing to me, though I don't know if my boss would be up for it. At least I'll find some places that I will enjoy though!

              1. re: Al Fredo

                If the price isn't too bad, I'd strongly recommend Boulevard. Not as pricey as some you mentioned, above and generous portions of fairly hearty stuff. Lots of posts to check out.

                1. re: Chris Rising

                  I like Boulevard, but the portions are pretty small, especially for someone who specifically wants large portions.

            2. #1 If he is a foodie take him to Quince--very small, very interesting and not well known.

              #2 If he love seafood, take him to Tadich and have the Ciopino--best I've tasted worldwide

              #3 if he is a wine guy--Rubicon great--best value for wine is Plumpjack--very good food and great wine prices...

              5 Replies
              1. re: tsmithdc

                If you are looking for "unpretentious and reasonably priced with generous portions" that is NOT Quince!

                How about Buckeye Roadhouse in Mill Valley? Or in the city Alamo Square?

                1. re: AmySherman

                  Betchya Buckeye would earn Al Fredo a promotion !!!! Good call.

                  1. re: NoeMan

                    Buckeye huh? Anything that results in a promotion would be worth a little drive. I'll have to check it out, thanks for the tip.

                  2. re: AmySherman

                    I would agree with that. Very good call.

                  3. re: tsmithdc

                    Quince is quite well-known, it's on the Chronicle's Top 100, Gayot's top 10 Italian list, etc. Many reports here.

                  4. berkeley out of the question?

                    900 Grayson =)

                    1 Reply
                    1. Incanto comes to mind. Value and portion size are relative, but by my standards Incanto fits the bill nicely.


                      I've noticed that portion sizes in SF tend to be a bit smaller than in other parts of the country. Appetizers are sized as starters, pasta (at Italian restaurants) is sized as a pasta course, and just one entree per person is not usually enough food. I like it this way, because it allows me to try more of the menu without overeating, but it's difficult to find places that have great food and enormous portions.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                        I wouldn't think Incanto would be any more right than would be Aziza or Quince. and, the fact that he had Italian in Philly probably doesn't mean he'd like Incanto: while I've never been to Ralph's in South Philly I can tell by their website that it is NOTHING like Incanto...I think the OP's boss would think Incanto is waaayyy too West Coast:even if others think of it as Italian!

                        Scala's, suggested by someone below, isn't all that moderate in price anymore.

                        I'd think Tadich would be a good option.

                        Another option he might like, though it also is on the pricy side, is Alfred's, for a traditional steakhouse menu and vibe. They know how to make a good martini...(and give you the shaker).



                      2. Pauline's Pizza was the first thing that popped into my mind.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: dunstable

                          I happen to love Pauline's Pizza, but I think it's way to casual for a business dinner.

                        2. I have an old friend in Cincinatti who while well-off, likes the down home generous portions type of place. When in Cin, he took me to several. On a visit several years ago, we took him & wife to Original Joe's (over my wife's objection, as not upscale enough). He LOVED it...took a pack of business cards and was passing them out to all his friends (was here for a bowl game). The neighborhood is a bit dicey at night, but they have valet parking. I would also consider Sam's Grill for sand dabs...very San Franciscan.

                          1. How about Scala's? Great food, good portions, moderate prices...too trendy? Plus Union Square location is a bonus for tourists.

                            1. Fog City Diner might work. I think they've recently changed chefs, so I'm not sure how it is now, but the food there is usually pretty solid, and good sized portions.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: JasmineG

                                It's part of the Real Restaurants group (like Buckeye), so chef changes don't mean much.


                              2. I have actually been to Ralph's in Philadelphia, not a place I would pick, however, if that is what he liked, I would definitely take the Tadich recommendation. It is old San Francisco, pricing isn't bad for the city and not much to object to. Don't know how old your boss is, but my Dad always liked Tadich's too.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ptrefler

                                  Having been to Ralph's, I also think that Tadich is a best bet here.

                                2. Being from NY, I would agree with grub lvr and go with Scala's Bistro. We spent a week in San Francisco and Scala's was the best overall experience we had (service, food quality, and value).

                                    1. What about Harris'? They do require a jacket at dinner, so don't know if that meets your unpretentious qualifier.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            I've considered House of Prime Rib, that might be up his alley. Harris's is one of my fav places to grab a steak, since we would be wearing Jackets anyways that not an issue, and last time I was there it didn't feel to pretentious. I've also considered Izzy's as another of my favorite joints. My only hesitation is that a steak house wouldn't be a very unique choice or one that shows off west coast dining in general.

                                            1. re: Al Fredo

                                              After reading everything I'd go with Tadich. Tadich has the history and venerable thing going on while still being low key and old school in a good way. Fussy old schoolers respect history and it's hard to argue with it in this context.

                                          2. To Impress: Gary Danko
                                            Otherwise: Indigo

                                            Then again I am not a local. Only a visitor who has gorged herself in unrestrained bliss. God I love San Francisco.

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